The search for the ideal waterproof, breathable bushwalking jacket, sometimes feels like the quest for the Holy Grail.

Is there really something out there will keep me dry no matter how much rain or sweat is happening?

In 37 years of multi-day walking in Tasmania and other wild places, my quest has seen me try oiled japara, Hydronaute, Gore-tex, Repel, Reflex, Event and Pertex rainjackets. In the process I’ve not only learned outdoor geek-speak, I’ve also spent more dollars than I’d care to tally up. And yet that grail has remained elusive.

Finally, after years of hearing whispers about the wonders of a particular Canadian brand, I shelled out for an Arc’teryx Zeta AR Jacket. Given the high cost of all things Arc’teryx, it’d be fair to ask whether I’ve got any closer to the Holy Grail?

To find out I took it on one of Australia’s most strenuous walks: Tasmania’s Western Arthur Range. The south-west obliged by making it a very wet and windy trip.

Design, Comfort & Durability (Rating: 90%)

The Gore C-Knit backer material feels good against your skin, and the hood adjustments work really well. I never had that claustrophobic feel I’ve had with all other hoods. When it’s properly adjusted, you turn your head and the hood turns with you, rather than flopping over your eyes and blocking your view. And it’s quiet.

The pit zips allow for better ventilation – and thus vapour control – during exertion, and the jacket has a neat scooped tail: perhaps not enough to sit on, but good for cycling and a bit of extra protection for your derriere. There’s also a small internal zipped pocket, suitable for a phone or a GPS, but perhaps not a map.

The Zeta AR Jacket is medium to light in weight (425g), made from N70p 3 layer Gore-tex fabric. That’s not Arc’teryx’s heaviest duty fabric, so I’m not sure I’d subject it to a lot of scrub-bashing. But overall it feels strong and durable,

Review: Arc'teryx Zeta AR Jacket

Functionality & Ease of Use (Rating: 95%)

The jacket works well as both a waterproof jacket and a wind shell. The YKK zips are easy to zip up, even while wearing gloves.

The cuffs adjust easily, with the sleeves long enough to cover your hands in a downpour or to velcro at your wrists for more normal use. You can pack it into its own hood, which makes it neat and small when stowed.

What I Like

  • Highly waterproof
  • A great wind shield
  • Good hood adjustment
  • Relatively light
  • Packable
  • Breathable
  • Very comfortable
  • Looks good
  • Water-resistant zips

What I Don’t Like

  • The price. (Even on special – and that’s how I got mine – they are still expensive).
  • Although they make sense in keeping rain out, I haven’t got used to the reverse zips on the pockets (you open them downwards).

Get One

The Arc’teryx Zeta AR Jacket is available for AUD$620 from Cotswold Outdoor or for USD$475 from Amazon.

Disclaimer: The above links are affiliate links, meaning I take a small percentage of the profit (and you don’t pay a cent more). As usual, this has no influence on the opinions presented here.

Have you tried the Arc’teryx Zeta AR Jacket? Got any questions or comments? Let us know by commenting below.